Mini Reviews July 2017

I’ve got another batch of three mini reviews for you here. These are games that I played in June.  We’ve got an old-timey Gameboy game, an endless runner and an indie game jam entry. Grand Prix cars, solar powered planes and scooters.

F-1 Race (Nintendo, 1984/1990)

F-1 Race is a Pole Position style game from Nintendo for the NES and Gameboy. That tells you almost everything you need to know about it. You’ve played it ,or games like it, a thousand times already. I played the Gameboy version for a while because a friend of mine really likes it. It’s not very original, especially by the time the Gameboy version came out in 1990, but it does what you’d expect a game like this to do and does it pretty well. It has short levels which are ideal for a handheld game, it’s pretty challenging and it has really funky music. It’s fun in the way that all games like this are, but that’s about all you can say.

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Race the Sun (Flippfly, 2013)

Race the Sun by Flippfly is an endless runner where you control a solar powered plane and attempt to fly as far as possible before the sun sets. It first came out in 2013 and has done the rounds on all the major platforms since then. It’s the not the sort of thing I’d play normally but I ended up really enjoying it. The stark, minimalist graphics look really stylish and the soundtrack is also really good. It contributes nicely to the atmosphere and tension of the game. What makes this game great for me are the controls, which are super smooth and responsive. I also enjoy playing in the first-person mode but that be a bit stressful sometimes. To keep things feeling fresh, Race the Sun generates a new landscape every day so even though all the same elements are always there, you’re not playing the exact same levels over and over. I’m sure most people reading this have already played Race the Sun but if anyone hasn’t I can strongly recommend it.

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Scoot Scoot (Watch Yr Step, 2016)

I found Scoot Scoot when I was looking for racing games on itch.io. It’s a scooter agility/autocross game that was created for the “A Game By It’s Cover” game jam in 2016. As it’s a jam game there’s not a whole lot to it but it’s really fun and well-presented. You drive your scooter around a course marked out by traffic cones in a car park and aim to complete 3 laps in as short a time as possible. You’re penalised for touching the cones and rewarded for riding fast through the speed traps spread around the course. It’s just a goofy little game with 1 level but it’s actually quite addictive. It’s available from the creator’s itch.io page (here) under a pay what you like scheme. If you do choose to download it I suggest giving them something because it’s absolutely worth supporting.

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ChoroQ Advance (Electronic Applications, 2001)

Choro Q Advance is the 14th racing game in the Choro Q series and the first of three entries released for the Gameboy Advance. It was developed for Takara by Electronic Applications (Eleca Ltd) and released in Japan and the USA in 2001 and Europe in 2002. Here in Europe we know this game as Penny Racers and in the USA it was called Gadget Racers. Both of these names are re-used for different games in the series so to avoid any confusion I’ve decided to refer to it by its Japanese name.

Choro Q Advance is a cute, colourful and simple game that I think works really well on a handheld console. Like so many racers on the GBA, it has a very SNES-like feel with its Mode 7-style graphics. This graphical style means the terrain is pancake-flat but there’s lot of track-side objects so the environment doesn’t feel as empty as a lot of other games with graphics of this type.

Like its home console counterparts, car customisation is a key feature of Choro Q Advance. You can race on tarmac, dirt, sand, snow or even on water so it’s important to equip the right parts for the race you’re about to enter. You can also collect and swap car bodies which has no effect on your performance but it’s a neat cosmetic touch that I really enjoy. The car bodies are mostly based on real cars with a few extra novelties thrown in and although they’re not named, you can easily tell what they’re supposed to be.

As with all games in this series, the driving mechanics are very basic. It handles like a kart racer with a slightly more realistic drifting technique. Don’t take that as a criticism though, it’s a lot of fun and the simple controls work in this game’s favour. It’s very easy to pick up and play and also easy to return to after a long break. For handheld games, those are very important characteristics.

I wish I had more to say about this game because I’ve wanted to mention it for quite a while. It’s one of those games that doesn’t do anything particularly unique or original but doesn’t really do anything wrong either. Those are the hardest games to talk about in my opinion. I’ve had a copy of it for a few years now and I still play it from time to time whenever I dust off my Gameboy Micro. If you want to play it yourself, it’s easy to get hold of. Loose cartridges are quite cheap and readily available and of course it’s playable in all the popular Gameboy Advance emulators.